Sunday, October 9, 2011

When the Travelater slows down...

The Travelater is taking a break! In the meantime you can head over to Travel Tramp blog for more travel/food/culture stories...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A city in a day: Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia. What a city. If you’ve ever been I know you’ll agree with me on one thing: you HAVE to spend more than one day there.

But I often find myself in places for just a day and wonder how I will see the sights in a day without it being like a bad night of speed dating.

I promise the following is a REAL day – you know, six to eight hours, not a ridiculous list that you can’t possibly do in a day. I don’t know about you, but when I visit a place, especially if I’m on holidays, I DO NOT get up before 6am. I also like to take enough time to actually enjoy the sights, not see them for five seconds and move on.

9am – Coffee: the breakfast of champions

I can’t start my day (any day actually) without a coffee and Melbourne has the best brew in Australia.

A local introduced me to a funky laneway café which boasts tasty coffee and an interior not unlike stepping back in time to the 40’s and 50’s. Complete with a barber and shoe-shiner, Captains of Industry is on Somerset Place, just a few left turns off Elizabeth Street, in the city centre.

I had two coffees (yep, buzzing for my big day ahead), and the toast with avocado and lemon. Between mouthfuls, I sipped my water out of a tin billy cup, just like my Nan used to have on the farm.

10am – Melbourne Museum: Surprisingly un-snoozworthy

After breakfast I jumped on a tram to head towards the famous Lygon Street in Carlton, to check out the Italian food, and Brunswick Street, to hit the shops.

One of the tram stops on the way was the Melbourne Museum, so I made a quick decision to jump off and have a browse. I knew the massive King Tut Egyptian exhibition was showing I thought I’d try my luck at getting in without a booking.

Turns out, even on a weekday, you need to book ahead. At 10am all the viewings were booked out until 5pm. So I paid measly $8 to see the regular museum exhibitions and wasn’t asleep by the end of it!

You could take the whole day to stroll through the exhibitions, but I spent 1.5 hours walking through the displays of the city of Melbourne’s history, complete with the stuffed version of the famous galloper Phar Lap. I’m still not sure if I was amazed by this feat of taxidermy or if it grossed me out, but it was an experience all the same.

Phar Lap & the wonders of taxidermy
My favourite display was the human body and mind section, with interactive displays and the history of psychiatry. Not sure what that says about me, but I do love my pop psychology.

If you’ve got kids in tow there’s heaps for them including dinosaur, bugs and creepy crawlies, and earth and space exhibits.

12.30pm – Italian food: I was born in the wrong country

I grew up with a lot of Italian friends in my country town, so I was practically raised on southern Italian food.

For Italian food lovers, Melbourne’s Lygon Street in Carlton is a Mecca. Your biggest problem when you get there will be choosing which Italian restaurant or trattoria you’ll eat at.

I had a cheap and tasty ravioli arrabiata for lunch at Café Corretto, with a cheeky glass of Lambrusco, but if you’re there for dinner Zingarella’s is hard to go past (leave room for dessert!).

2pm – Shopping: giving the plastic a workout

Melbourne has fantastic shopping wherever you go, be it the city or suburbs, but if you’re after a bargain, or something funky and different, Brunswick Street in Fitzroy is the place to go. As you migrate from shop to shop, you’ll find a café in every block, to fuel up on caffeine while you rest your weary feet.

Brunswick St
I got a stack of bargains (at more than 50% off) at sale warehouse Clear It. It has designer and regular labels so there’s lots of variety, but go there first so you’re fresh because it’s a bit crazy. While the women aren’t clawing your eyes out to get to a handbag first, there is a lot of stock, and you will have to look through a lot of racks.

6.30pm – Cocktails for dinner Thai for Dinner

As well as a reputation for amazing coffee, Melbourne has a well-earned reputation for great bars and great cocktails.

I had a yummy margarita with a difference at Gin Palace. Some how, they manage to take the taste of the tequila, lemon and salt combo and mix it into one mouthful! The bar is located on Little Collins St in the city, an easy walk from tram stops and city hotels. It’s also close to the hundreds of choices for a post-drink dinner; Thai, Indian and Italian can all be found within walking distance.

Phew! So that was my day in Melbourne.

Have you been? What would you recommend in Melbourne? Or what other places have you crammed into just one day?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ain't No Mountain High Enough...

I’ve been a bit slack with the blog posts over the past couple of months – and I’d like to think (ok, my excuse is) that I’ve been climbing a few personal mountains lately; new job, moving house etc. They’ve been sucking up my travel blog time like a black hole.

It's all down hill from here
Anyway, that clichéd analogy got me thinking about the mountains I actually have climbed. I don’t fancy myself as a hiker so it’s not a long list, but I do intend to add to it in the future. I thought I’d share it with you because, lets face it, there’s nothing like feeling as though you want to quit at the bottom of a climb, and surprising yourself when you get to the top!

Little Mount Peel, South Canterbury, New Zealand

Firstly, I’d like to point the ‘little’ in Little Mount Peel ain’t so small. It must be something about New Zealanders living in a country with so many mountains that made then want to call this monster ’Little’ Mount Peel. The peak actually has an older sibling, Mount Peel, which is actually is bigger. Fair enough.

Little Mount Peel, New Zealand
Little Mount Peel is located around 1.5 hours drive from Christchurch, on New Zealand’s South Island Peel Forest Park. If your fitness is ok you’ll probably get up and back in about three hours. We did the walk in summer, so it was pretty steamy while walking through the dense scrub at the bottom, but take a jacket; the higher you go the lower the temperature gets. The track can be pretty rugged and muddy in places, especially if there’s been recent rain, so wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

The track is steep in places, and you may need to stop for the occasional breather if you aren’t used to climbing, but the view is SO worth it.

Murree Hills, Punjab Province, Pakistan

I was lucky enough to visit Pakistan when I was a teenager in 1997. It was a somewhat different country back then, but even at that stage I appreciated how lucky I was to visit such an exotic, and sometimes, scary place.

Murree Hills, Pakistan
 The view from the Murree Hills over the disputed Kashmiri border still remains one of the most exotic views I’ve ever seen in my life. The hills were dark green and almost mystical looking, with low cloud swirling the peaks. Ok, I didn’t actually climb the mountains with my legs, most of it was done from the relative safety of the 4WD with my uncle, aunt and cousins, but there was some walking. With the travel sickness and the 4WD winding round and round the misty, mountain road, I still felt like I climbed the damn thing.

Mount Warning, northern New South Wales, Australia

Located about 40 minutes drive from the Gold Coast, Mount Warning is a great climb, with a good track and rainforest view. The mountain is also known as Wollumbin (meaning cloud catcher), and has great cultural and traditional significance to indigenous Australians.

Mount Warning
Due to the often warm and humid climate of northern New South Wales, the ideal time to climb Mount Warning is early in the morning or during the winter months. It’s also a bit of a gamble as to the view you’ll see when you get to the top. Even if it’s a clear sunny day, Mount Warning can often attract low cloud, hence the indigenous name, over its peak. Mostly, you’ll get great views, even on the way up, but it’s good to keep in mind your end result is completely reliant on the whims of nature.

The last part of the climb is rock face, and all you have to assist you up the top is a chain. It’s not as primitive as it sounds, but you have to be pretty mobile to finish the climb comfortably.

Mount Kosciuszko, New South Wales, Australia

I climbed Mount Kosuiszko as a teenager too, so I probably remember it being easier than it was, although you don’t need to be a professional athlete to complete this hike and still be able to walk the next day.

Kosuiszko National Park
I did the climb during spring so the track was conveniently free of snow, (in winter it’s one of Australia’s best ski slopes) and we followed a nature boardwalk virtually all the way to the top. The view rivals any I’ve ever seen in terms of absolute 360-degree views of Australia’s beautiful Snowy Mountains landscape. It’s also relatively easy on the way back down, which means you’ll still have lots of energy left to explore the tiny ski village of Thredbo.

On my to do list I have the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea and Machu Picchu in Peru.

Have you done any of these? I’d love to hear about it if you have. What’s on your mountain list?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hello world, it's Queensland. I'm open for business.

Tounge Bay, Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach - Whitsundays
(Photo: Tourism Queensland)
It has been a long time between blog posts for me, I’ll admit. Some of it has been the usual pre-Christmas craziness and the post-holiday laziness – but the rest is because the state I live in, Queensland, Australia, has been inundated by devastating, mind-blowing flooding.

I consider myself very lucky because; firstly, I live at least an hour’s drive from the state’s capital - Brisbane - where some very damaging and widespread flooding occurred, and almost two hours from the regional areas struck by incredible flash flooding (you may have seen those pictures on the news). Secondly, my house wasn’t flooded. But many, many were. It has been an awful and life-changing experience for hundreds of thousands of people.

But this post is not about the tragedy of the flooding – it is about what you (as an avid traveller/blogger/ordinary person/friend who does me a favour and reads my blog) can do to help. Please come and visit Queensland. Help the Queensland tourism industry (which contributes $9.2 billion to the state's economy) get back on its feet.


Unfortunately there is a lot of out of date information still out there at the moment; even Google's 'Crisis Response' page has not been updated and still says that millions of people are being threatened by flooding.

The majority of popular tourist destinations in Queensland (the Gold Coast, The Sunshine Coast, Airlie Beach, Cairns, Port Douglas, Agnes Waters, Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef, just to name a few) have not been affected by flooding AT ALL. They remain a fantastic place to spend your hard earned holiday leave. All Queensland airports, except Rockhampton, are open and working as normal. The main highway from Brisbane to Cairns is open. You can get further details about the areas that are not affected by flooding at all from Tourim Queensland here.

For anyone who hasn’t visited Australia before, or doesn’t know the state of Queensland, the above map may help. You can see a lot of the northern tourist destinations I mentioned above are hundreds and sometimes thousands of kilometres away from the recent flood affected areas.
Yes, I’m biased. Queensland, and Australia, is my home, as well as a great place to travel. But if you’ve ever watched shocking news footage of a devastating natural disaster and wondered what you can do – here is a chance.

Pass this on to anyone and everyone you know who might be planning a holiday soon. Visit Queensland – the tourism industry is open for business!

Now, I’m not saying anything new; almost everyone in the online travel community within Australia is encouraging travellers to spend their precious dollars in Queensland. So many people cant be wrong, right?

There’s even a dedicated Facebook page full of ideas for your next Queensland holiday.

You can also follow the official Tourism Queensland blog

Airlines are even having sales, doing their bit to raise awareness. Domestic Australian airline Virgin Blue is having a sale to destinations in Queensland, where some flights are up to 50% off. Check out the Queensland Shines Sale.

And finally – there are so many people doing it tough in the wake of this incredible destruction. They won’t be having a holiday anytime soon. Please, if you can, donate to the Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal – the Queensland Government’s official flood appeal fund.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Backyard Travel: Australia

I’ve recently had a bit of a financial reality check, which as a traveller, is not much fun.

It’s that time in my life when I’m thinking about making some of those grown-up decisions, like getting a mortgage. This unfortunately means I may have to cut down on my expensive international travel addiction, and try to stick to one a year (or less – yikes!).

As much as I break out into a cold sweat at the thought – I’ve realised I’m lucky to live in a beautiful country full of travel adventure options. I think because my country is an island I’ve developed an obsession with ‘overseas’ travel’ when in fact, there’s plenty to see at home too.

So it’s about time I appreciate the amazing Australian places I’ve been lucky enough to visit…and to start a bit of a domestic travel wish list!

Coolangatta, Gold Coast

I am actually lucky enough to call the Gold Coast home, but before I lived in this beautiful coastal city, I visited my favourite part – Coolangatta – every year.

Not only does it still have a friendly, small-town-feel to the area surrounding some of the world’s most amazing surf breaks (Snapper Rocks to name just one), it's also five minutes from an international airport and has some of the most amazing beach views anywhere in Australia.

You can spend a day at the beach without having to fight for a square of sand, a common problem at so many other world-class beaches, and accommodation and dining isn’t overpriced. And if you’re a surfing fan, make the trip in the Australia summer to catch the Quicksilver Pro, the first stop on the ASP world surfing tour.

The Murray River, Victoria

Australia’s longest river may look less than exotic to many visitors; I think it could be the brown, muddy water, but it really is an amazing river to travel down.